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Paul Eliot Green Papers

Identifier: MSS 0022

Scope and Contents

The Paul Eliot Green Papers date from 1917 to 1968 and contain diaries, manuscripts, publications, and correspondence.

With the exception of 3 bound volumes, the copies of Green's typescript diaries are in loose-leaf format, arranged chronologically in folders, with approximately 1705 leaves. These diaries cover the years 1917 to 1966, beginning with his stint in the army during World War I. His comments on the war cover his training in South Carolina, his months in battle in Belgium and France, the casualties suffered by his regiment, and short rations; but also note the beauty of the countryside, architecture and museums of Europe.

Later diaries illustrate Green's development as a playwright, and provide details of his daily life, including family and friends, and the planning involved in staging his plays in Virginia, North Carolina, Washington DC, Florida, and Texas. The diaries are rich in travel description, political commentary, personal anectodes, literary opinions, ideas for plays, and spontaneous poems.

Notable subjects of Green's anecdotes include Carl Sandburg, Allen Tate, Richard Wright, Jonathan Daniels, George Moore, Orson Welles, and Thomas Wolfe. Events of interest discussed in the diaries include: a visit to Green's farm by Countess Tolstoi in 1937; the family's 1946 visit to Hollywood, where Green wrote film scripts; reminiscences about Thomas Wolfe's funeral after a visit to Asheville in 1951; Green's efforts to help death row inmates in Raleigh in 1951; and Green's 1961 trip to Spain to research his play, Cross and Sword.

The letters in the collection date from 1918 to 1962, and were written by Paul Green and his wife Elizabeth Lay Green to her cousin, Clara Booth Byrd. These letters contain opinions about life and literature, copies of poems, and family and professional news. Green also offers advice on Miss Byrd's writing.


  • 1917 - 1968


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical or Historical Information

Paul Eliot Green (1894-1981) was a Southern playwright, poet, and novelist. Born in Lillington, North Carolina, Green lived in the state all of his life and tried to capture in his writings the culture and heritage of the American South, concentrating on the experiences of tenant farmers, mill workers, Native Americans and African Americans.

Green studied at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill under folk dramatist Frederick Koch of the Carolina Playmakers. After an interruption of his college career to serve with the armed forces during World War I, he returned to Chapel Hill and graduated in 1921. Green was married to Elizabeth Atkinson Lay in 1922.

From 1923 to 1944, and again from 1962 to 1963, Green served on the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, first as professor of philosophy, then dramatic arts, and later of radio, television and motion pictures. He wrote and published numerous one-act and full-length plays, novels, short stories, essays and articles, motion-picture scripts and radio plays. He also edited The Reviewer, a periodical, from 1921 to 1925.

Green was recognized with several literary honors. In 1927, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for In Abraham's Bosom, his play dealing with racism in the South, and in 1965 he was the recipient of the North Carolina Achievement Award.

In 1937, Green was asked to write a play as part of the 350th anniversary celebration of the landing of the first English colonists in the "New World." He used this opportunity to tell the story of The Lost Colony in an emerging format, the symphonic drama. This type of play was commonly produced throughout the South during the warmer summer months, and was based on the principles of Greek drama.

Green was in favor of integration, and he expressed his social concerns through his plays and writings. From the 1920s onward, he devoted his time, energy, and financial resources to supporting basic civil rights for African Americans and Native Americans. He also spoke out for for the poor, uneducated, and imprisoned, and opposed the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. He was later quick to demonstrate his opposition to the American presence in Vietnam. Several of Green's works were inspired by his interest in social issues, among them Cabin in the Cotton (1932), Hymn to the Rising Sun (1936), and Wilderness Road (1955).

Paul Green lived in Chapel Hill until his death in 1981.


1.70 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials



Paul Eliot Green (1894-1981) was a Southern playwright, poet, and novelist.

The Paul Eliot Green Papers date from 1917 to 1968 and contain diaries, manuscripts, publications, and correspondence.

Arrangement Note

Materials in the collection are divided by type of material and arranged in chronological order.

Method of Acquisition

The bulk of the collection was given by Paul Green in May 1966. Additional gifts were made by Clara Booth Byrd and Dr. and Mrs. Charles M. Adams in 1967. Some items were removed and some transferred to the Paul Green Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill's Wilson Library in 1990.

Related Materials

See also the Paul Eliot Green papers at UNC-Chapel Hill. [Some letters are digitized at DocSouth.]

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Processing Information

Processed by Archives Staff, Encoded by Jason Alston, July 2009;

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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US